Disclosure: Kansas I-70 Association sponsored this post. However, all opinions and photographs are my own.
Kansas City, Kansas is a go-to destination for culturally diverse attractions, big-city shopping, and restaurants worthy of the all-star status. At the final stop on my Kansas I-70 road trip, I was eager to search out the top things to do in the city.
Hana’s Donuts (2131 S. 34th St.) is tucked away in a neighborhood just waiting to be discovered by donut die-hards. Entering the parking lot, I saw one customer after another exit with boxes of goodies. The smell of donuts filled the air.
Inside, a family with several kids ordered a big box of donuts. Each child pointed at their choice. “I want the one with sprinkles!” the youngest boy exclaimed. Before their order was complete, the dad added “and a dozen of the cinnamon bites, please.”
The display case was filled with every kind of donut you could imagine. Apple fritters the size of your hand. Blueberry cake donuts. Cinnamon rolls. And classics like maple long johns and old fashion crullers.
The woman behind the counter the added two donuts to my to-go bag and thanked me for coming into the bakery for the first time. She (and the owner) had worked since 8pm the night before to prepare donuts. Wow!
When you visit Hana’s Donuts, order a dozen donuts and save 10%. Don’t leave without adding a few cinnamon bites to the bag for good measure. With only one table inside the bakery, customers often take their order to go. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, check the bakery’s hours before making a trip.
RESIDENCE INN BY MARRIOTT KANSAS CITY AT THE LEGENDS
Located across the parking lot from some of the best shopping in the area, Residence Inn by Marriott Kansas City at The Legends (1843 Village West Pkwy) provides all of the comforts want from a hotel and more because it’s designed for the extended-stay traveler. They offer studio, one and two-bedroom suites.
My one-bedroom suite was bigger than some of my college apartments. The layout was incredible! Unlike typical hotel rooms, this one had a full kitchen with large appliances, a living room with a workstation, a separate bedroom with a full closet, and an oversized bathroom. After months on the road traveling to Kansas towns, I was happy to discover a hotel room that felt like home. The rest of the hotel’s amenities were equally as nice. Every morning, guests enjoy a full complimentary breakfast adjacent to the lobby. For those not staying for a morning meal, a self-serve coffee bar is available just beyond the spacious lobby.
Although the hotel had an indoor pool and fitness equipment on-site, I opted to get my exercise by walking directly across the street to The Legends Outlets for a little retail therapy. If you choose to stay at the hotel, I know you’ll find it impressive. To search for available rooms and rates, visit the website.
LEGENDS OUTLETS KANSAS CITY
Did you know that Legends Outlets Kansas City is one of the state’s top tourist attractions? People drive from miles around to shop brand-name stores for mega-deals in the area known as Village West. Adidas, Ann Taylor, Nike, and Under Armour are a small sampling of the store you can expect. With over 100 outlets, retail shops, and dining options, it’s no wonder the Legends Outlets is always buzzing with people.
Visitors can also enjoy outdoor sculptures and public art displays at almost every turn. As you wind your way around the complex, you’ll notice that each one pays homage to legendary Kansans who made their mark in history. The courtyards and corridor showcase the stories of Amelia Earhart, Clyde Cessna, and Buster Keaton.
In fact, if you happen to have someone in your group that doesn’t prefer shopping, they can easily be entertained by walking the grounds and learning about the movers and shakers who made Kansas what it is today. A yellow brick road gives a nod to the Wizard of Oz while native grasses surround towering sculptures.
At Christmas time, the annual lighting of the holiday tree in the center of the courtyard brings hundreds to the area. Families can follow the event with a movie night at AMC Theatre Legends 14. The movie theatre includes 14 screens and one of them is four stories tall with a VIP balcony lounge. Later, the family can head to Santa’s Mail Station to drop the kids’ letters to the North Pole.
Shopping at Cabela’s (10300 Cabela Dr.) is an adventure for the entire family. Heck, even the family dog is welcomed in the store. Located a short driving distance from the outlet mall, Cabella’s carries gear, cookware, and clothing for those who like to spend time outdoors.
Aside from racks and shelves filled with the latest outdoor gear, the retail store is filled with taxidermy including the world’s largest collection of trophy mule deer.
Walking through the store is like going on a safari. Side rooms showcase towering elephants flanked by big cats and antelope. A pedestrian bridge in the store covers a pond of koi fish at the base of an indoor waterfall. Kids love identifying fish at the oversized aquarium. Couples stop to take selfies with statuesque animals.
The second floor of the retail store is where deal hounds need to shop. Clothing and shoes labeled with end-of-the-year deep discounts on outdoor equipment are found in the Blowout Sale Room. If you’re looking for a new coat, pair of boots, or flannel shirt that is slightly out of season, you’ll find it here.
As I was exiting the salesroom, I heard a familiar sound “Ho ho ho, big guy! Do you like candy canes?” It was Santa! He was greeting children waiting in line with their parents to have their photo taken with the jolly fellow. Cabela’s is known for hosting events like this one, so be sure to check their Facebook page for more information before planning your visit.
HOLLYWOOD CASINO AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY
The sound of the slot machines and the dealers calling cards entices visitors to try their luck at Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway (777 Hollywood Casino Blvd). Gamblers sit in front of 2,000 reel and video slot machines hoping for a jackpot.
I noticed dozens of table games including roulette and craps. Walking through the casino, it was easy to find a game to play. The 12-table Poker Room was bustling. Prefer video poker? Pull up a chair and inside your casino card to start a game.
With access to several bars and restaurants, casino players can satisfy their cravings for a delicious meal between gameplay. Final Cut Steakhouse’s menu offers fine dining selections and they promote meal deals during the holidays. What could be better than celebrating a jackpot with a steak dinner and a cocktail?
EL TORO LOCO MEXICAN BAR & GRILL
It was lunchtime and because I was hanging around The Legends Outlets area, I decided to give El Toro Loco (1706 Village Park West) a try. Specializing in street tacos, tamales, and other Mexican dishes, it’s a ideal choice for tourists who need a break from shopping.
A friendly bartender greeted me and served up a heaping bowl of chips with salsa and an ice-cold Corona. The menu has more entree choices on it than you can imagine, and by the looks of the plates in front of diners around the restaurant, the portions were going to be massive.
When I have a food craving, there isn’t any denying it. I created a combination meal consisting of a chile relleño and a taco with rice and refried beans. I’ve ordered chile relleños in many places and I know a good one when I taste it. The cheese was delicious and the battered and fried pepper was perfectly crisp.
The restaurant’s setting was colorful and vibrant from the plates to the decor on the walls. TVs surrounded the bar area allowing patrons to watch the game at any time. About eight varieties of tequila bottles lined the back of the bar. The bartender stayed busy filling the margarita machine with fresh-made mix (he makes about 20 gallons a day!).
If you’re planning a visit to the area, take a look at the restaurant’s Facebook page for advertised promotions on menu selections like Taco and Margarita Tuesday when hard shell tacos are 99 cents and jumbo margaritas are $4.99.
ROWE RIDGE VINEYARD & WINERY
As a Kansan, I’m still amazed that the state produces incredible wine considering the extreme weather we often experience in the Midwest. I was impressed with Rowe Ridge Vineyard & Winery (11255 Leavenworth Rd), a five-minute drive from my lunch stop. The tasting room offers vino enthusiasts a chance to sample flights of a large selection of wines (6 wines + logo glass $8).
Located on 10 acres, the tasting room is open Thursday-Sunday from 12pm-5pm or by appointment. Marc and Pame Rowe have operated the vineyard since 2005 and depend on volunteers to help them harvest grapes from over 3,000 vines. The first vineyard in Wyandotte County, they produce 9 varieties of hybrid and American native grapes.
My recommendation is to bring someone with you to the tasting room and each purchase a different flight so you can sample all of the wines. When in doubt, choose the dry to semi-sweet flight. Bottles range from $17-$18 and fruit wine bottles are $16. View the current list of wines available here.
DOWNTOWN AVENUE OF MURALS
The Kansas City metro area is known for its many murals. Each street art creation tells a story, and the ones I located downtown aka “Avenue of Murals” celebrate the history and culture unique to the area. Over 30 high school students were involved in the creation of some of them.
El Baile de la Vida (826 Minnesota Ave.) pictured below shows dancers in costumes representing 19 states. Look closely and you will recognize images of Mexican culture from Day of the Dead skeletons to La Virgen de Guadalupe.
Directly across the street, I spotted a gigantic mural depicting what appeared to be a laborer. Kansan Printer (901 N. 8th St.) is a mural highlighting a printer at a hand press to honor the workers of the Kansas City Kansan newspaper. The building it is painted on housed the newspaper plant for 80 years.
Before leaving the downtown area, I spied another beautiful mural worthy of a photo, Facing the Past, Looking Into the Future (751 Minnesota Ave.). It showcases the story of the modern and traditional Hmong culture by highlighting work, play, and celebration. The vibrant colors can’t be missed as you drive down Minnesota Avenue.
To view an online map of the Avenue of Murals Project and other street art finds including sculptures in the area, click this link. While you’re in the downtown area, consider dining along the city’s famous Taco Trail. There are 28 restaurants alone in the downtown corridor. Locals highly recommend Bonito Michoacan (1150 Minnesota Ave).
My day of exploring Kansas City was coming to an end, but not before I made the drive to a restaurant locals consider one of the best in the city, Slap’s BBQ (533 Central Ave.). It seemed like everyone I knew had eaten there but me, so my visit was overdue.
The bbq joint is known for its ribs, serving perfectly charred but moist burnt ends, and a host of mouthwatering side dishes. They’ve been in the biz since the Pearce brothers began touring the barbecue competition circuit. The restaurant serves healthy portions of smoked meat to diners looking for authentic Kansas City bbq.
I took my place in line and waited about 20 minutes until it was my turn to order dinner. The outdoor seating area was filled with families, so I ordered a meat combo plate to go.
When I told the employee it was my first time at Slap’s BBQ, they added a pork rib to my dinner. “It’s one of our best meats, and you need to try it,” he said. Along with my burnt ends, I took his advice and ordered side dish helpings of baked potato casserole and bacon mac-n-cheese.
When in Kansas City, you simply must eat at Slap’s BBQ. Their award-winning barbecue continues to earn top honors at competitions. If that isn’t convincing enough then, the line winding out the door made up of out-of-towners and locals is proof enough. My meal was beyond delicious and I’ll most definitely be back to the Strawberry Hill neighborhood the next chance I get.
Kansas City, Kansas is where you go when you want to eat like the locals. It’s also a mecca for destination shopping, mural hunting, and off-the-beaten-path adventures. Rich with history dating back to when Lewis & Clark arrived at Kaw Point in 1804 to today’s vibrant community, Kansas City is an urban area that quickly wins you over.